The Day I Lost My Superhero Status
On July 5th, we welcomed baby Rivers into our family. He’s a sweet little guy who totes a calm demeanor and the pregnancy and delivery were just as uneventful. With in a few days of having him, a lump appeared on the side of my neck and off to the ENT I went to be told that it was a Branchial Cleft Cyst and it had to come out. On August 7 the surgeon pulled out an egg size knot, glued me up and I went back to the regular routine. The lump was given to pathology and we were told that it was just a over-reactive lymph node. No cyst, no cancer, no worries.
At the end of September, the mass returned, only bigger, red, hot, and it was now impeding my ability to turn my head. I ended up back at the ENT for yet another FNA (fine needle aspiration, although they really should come up with another name for it— it’s not a “fine” needle). After another CT and was told, it has to come out again. The next week it was back on the surgery table. Same scar, same recovery, only this time the ENT was sending the biopsies to Infectious Disease and Pathology. In the words of the ENT, “we are scratching our heads.” They were thoroughly confused, for it shouldn’t have grown back.
Two weeks passed and the only definitive answer we had heard back was from pathology. We were told “it’s not normal, but we haven’t seen anything like this before.” Off to MD Anderson went the biopsies. I haven’t been to Houston before, but now I think I am permitted to include it on my list of places that I have been. Well, part of me has.
On Monday, October 29th, I received a call from the ENT office. The results were back in and I should come go right to their office if I could. This would be the moment that I lost my super-hero status. Not that I truly think I am a super hero, but honestly, I am fairly certain that everyone has a somewhat invincible part. No one ever thinks that something that bad will happen to them. I get in my car everyday and never think I’ll get in a car wreck. I live everyday without the fear of thinking about root canals, breaking bones, being robbed, etc. I guess that’s what I refer to as super-hero. It’s not going to happen to me. Well, then it did.
To sit in a doc’s office and hear the word “cancer” really made my heart sink further than ever before. It definitely ranks highest on my list of words that I don’t want to hear. Much of that visit I was physically there, but the words from the doc’s mouth formed just like that of Charlie Brown’s teacher. All I heard was “you have cancer.” I think I may have heard that statement 1,185,382 more times that day. It just continued to replay over and over and over. Intertwined in that sentence was a myriad of worry that consumed my brain. How do I tell my family I have cancer? How do I plan for the future? Why didn’t we take the kids to Disney last year when they begged? What do I need to hurry and do before the chemo-crappy feeling arrives? Why didn’t I just grow my hair a little longer over the summer and donate it like I originally planned? What are my kids going to do without a mother? How in the world is my husband going to remember to clip box-tops for thee kids schools, sign all of the school papers, keep up with all the crazy schedules and play dates, etc?
So in the age of “Google,” I quickly went home to look it up. Feel free to look it up if you want, but there’s not much on it and it may make you cry. It’s a rare lymphoma (peripheral T-cell lymphoma) and the articles generally say “poor prognosis.” In meeting with the oncologist we were actually told that 50% of people will be alive after 5 years. At first I looked at that as fairly low, but then again, I am also in that really small percentage of the population that can get pregnant on birth control. I know that it may sound odd to link the two, but I figure if I can be in that 1% pregnancy bracket, I can also be in that 50% of the people who are still living after 5 years bracket.